Peking Duck, the most famous dish from northern China, actually originated in Nanjing, the first capital of the Ming Dynasty. It’s believed that the Ming emperors loved eating duck, a local delicacy, which prompted their chefs to develop various techniques for cooking the bird. When Ming emperor Zhu Di moved the capital to Peking (modern day Beijing) in 1421, he brought along his culinary team and various recipes, including the roast duck ones. The Peking Duck dish we know today was mostly developed after that, hence its name. During the Qing Dynasty, it was introduced to the upper classes. In 1864 the most famous Peking Duck restaurant Quanjude (全聚德) was set up to cater to the growing demand, impressing diners with its innovative “hung oven” (挂炉) roasting technique.
How is it cooked and served?
In hung ovens, the ducks are cooked slowly over firewood, and occasionally singed in the flames using poles. This method produces the dish’s crispy, shiny and reddish brown hue.
Cooked duck can be sliced in three ways: skin only, meat only and meat with skin together. The meat and skin is then served with scallions, cucumber sticks, sweet bean sauce, smashed garlic and white sugar, before being wrapped in a thin flour pancake. People eat it with their hands, like a burrito.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic, the dish has become one of China’s national icons, favoured by tourists and diplomats alike and praised by Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro and Helmut Kohl on trips to Beijing.
Where to eat it?
WiC’s current recommendation for Peking Duck is Jing Yaa Tang (京雅堂), the Chinese restaurant inside the Opposite House hotel in Beijing’s Sanlitun Village. The restaurant is a collaboration with Michelin-starred restaurateur Alan Lau. To ensure quality Jing Yaa Tang’s chef de cuisine hand-picks each duck from their supplier. To ensure a perfectly crispy skin air is blown into the duck to separate the skin from the meat. It is then filled with water to keep the interior moist, seasoned with aged vinegar, molasses and spices and later roasted in a brick oven over traditional aromatic date wood. During the 70 minutes the duck hangs in the oven, the chefs use a long pole to liao, or singe, the duck over the fire. Jing Yaa Tang’s chefs believe their method of preparation produces a tasty duck with minimum fat. The chefs also roll their light translucent pancakes on site, and, after much experimentation, have devised a proprietary sauce to garnish the duck. And adding another unusual twist to the flavour in the pancake: in addition to the usual cucumber, scallions and garlic, thin slices of melon are provided. The result: each bite offers deliciously fragrant, sweet, rich and refreshing flavours.
The elaborate presentation of the dish (see photos) and Jing Yaa Tang’s overall ambience is ideal for a business dinner and the prices are very reasonable (Rmb238 for a whole duck and Rmb138 for half).
Address: Taikoo Li, Sanlitun North, No. 11 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China 100027
Phone: +8610 6417 6688
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